Erik ten Hag blamed “individual mistakes” and admitted Brentford were far hungrier as his Manchester United team crashed to a second consecutive defeat at the start of the Premier League season.
Brentford racked up four first-half goals in a disastrous opening 35 minutes for United, an error from David de Gea for Josh Dasilva’s opener setting the tone and Ten Hag said: “Brentford were more hungry. We conceded goals from individual mistakes. You can’t have a tactical plan but then put it in the bin.”
Two competitive matches into his new job, the Dutchman was forced to apologise to the club’s travelling fans. “It is difficult for me,” he said. “It is always a surprise when you start a game like this. After 35 minutes we conceded four goals. This is not possible. The team has to take the responsibility, I feel really sorry for the fans who did everything to support us, we let them down.”
With Brentford repeatedly catching out United’s tactic of playing the ball out from defence, Dasilva’s and Mattias Jensen’s goals both came following mistakes in possession. Ten Hag still defended his prescribed system. “I’m convinced he can do it,” he said of De Gea. “I’ve seen it in training. “They [all] can. We saw it in pre‑season.”
He was still highly critical of his team’s performance. “They are good players, and have to take responsibility on the pitch, as a team and as individuals, and that’s what we didn’t do. I asked them to play with belief and take responsibility for their performance, and that’s what they didn’t do.
“It’s only when we stick together and work hard that we will overcome that. You have to take belief on to the pitch for yourself and the team.
“Don’t get me wrong, the manager is responsible as well, he has the main responsibility, and I take that. And I will work on that. I have to give them belief, but they have to give it by themselves.”
After a disappointing debut against Brighton last week, the summer signing Lisandro Martínez came in for further criticism, and was substituted at half-time. “At 4-0 I could have changed eight others as well,” the manager said, while denying the Argentinian’s height is a problem against Premier League attackers. “I don’t think it was the issue that we conceded four goals.”
De Gea meanwhile accepted full responsibility for his mistake. “I think I cost three points to my team,” said the goalkeeper. “It was a poor performance from myself. After the mistake and the second, it was very tough for the team. It was a horrible day. Of course we should react better, but I should have saved the first shot, and probably the result would be different.”
The Spaniard said United’s players needed to offer far more to give Ten Hag chance to succeed at Old Trafford. “It’s easy to play pre-season, you play for nothing, but when you play games that matter you need bravery, to be more consistent, and be proper players. Head up, and stick together as a team. We have a lot to learn from a new manager.”
The Brentford manager, Thomas Frank, while saying it “should never be routine” beating Manchester United, said: “It is amazing how this group of players keep giving me and the fans memories for life. It is crazy. It is a fully deserved win against Manchester United.”
The Brentford striker Ivan Toney said: “We know [United have] got great talent, but when you work hard and run all over them, then the result shows what we are capable of.”